Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Dutch Liberal loses out on committee post for being too pro-EU

  • Rene Leegte, until Thursday deputy chairperson of the European affairs committee in the Netherlands. (Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg)

The Dutch Liberal party has nominated a relative EU novice to chair the European affairs committee in the lower house of the Dutch parliament, abandoning a more experienced candidate who is said to be too pro-European for the cente-right party.

Liberal Malik Azmani, the party's spokesperson on immigration, asylum and integration was elected Thursday afternoon (13 November) as chairperson of the committee.

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The post became vacant after Christian-Democrat Raymond Knops decided to step down.

Political parties arrange among themselves which party chairs what committee.

According to Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, Knops had wanted Liberal Rene Leegte to succeed him, who until Thursday was the committee's deputy chairman.

It was agreed the two political parties would switch: the Liberals would get the committee's chair, the Christian-Democrats the deputy chair.

However, on Saturday NRC Handelsblad reported that the Liberal party would rather nominate Azmani, because Leegte was too pro-European.

Because of the switch, Leegte not only missed his party's endorsement for the position of chairman, he also lost his deputy chairmanship.

When it came to the vote, Azmani received only six of the twelve votes. Four went to Leegte and there were two abstentions.

In comparison, the new deputy chairperson, who was also elected Thursday afternoon, received all twelve votes.

After Knops handed over the gavel to Azmani, the new chairperson remarked: “I am very happy that a majority of this committee has confidence in me as chairperson. I will prove that that confidence will not be damaged.”

The Liberal party, to which prime minister Mark Rutte belongs, is much more critical of European integration than their coalition party Labour.

Paul Weber, spokesperson for the Liberals in the lower house, would not comment on why Azmani was chosen over Leegte, because it is an "internal matter".

A socialist member of the committee, Harry van Bommel, said he would have liked Leegte as chairman. "Europe is a complex subject and Leegte has the expertise", he said.

In May this year, Leegte published a report title Ahead in Europe, in which he suggested the Dutch House of Representatives should be more involved in the European decision-making process.

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